Clallam board resumes debate on Department of Community Development report

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Mike Doherty continues to press his fellow Clallam County commissioners to take action on an investigative report into employee complaints against Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller.

Doherty raised the issue of the DCD report for the second time in as many weeks in a spirited board session Monday.

“It frustrates me again that the board is not taking leadership in saying this is not acceptable behavior,” Doherty said.

The June 2013 report alleges that the nation’s only elected community development director backdated a building permit, ordered staff to destroy documents, retaliated against employees and damaged office morale, among other things.

Commissioner Jim McEntire accused Doherty of turning the DCD report into a political issue.

“The most logical inference to be drawn, Mike, from you continually bringing this forward is that you’re attempting to influence an election,” McEntire said.

“Don’t say that,” Doherty replied.

“I raised this seven months ago. . . . It’s just the board didn’t act.”

Declined charges

The state Attorney General’s Office declined to recommend the filing of any charges against Roark Miller, who is running this year for a second four-year term against challenger Mary Ellen Winborn in a nonpartisan race.

The 515-page DCD report, conducted by former FBI investigator Ken Bauman and made public in April, contained no formal recommendation.

Doherty said the investigation cost the county “well over $100,000,” including staff time.

Commissioners Mike Chapman and McEntire voted in May to “concur with the advice and decisions rendered” by the state Attorney General’s Office, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and state Auditor’s Office.

Doherty voted no, calling on his fellow commissioners to review “serious allegations” contained in the report.

The state Auditor’s Office decided it would not conduct its own investigation but would review Bauman’s report during its annual audit.

County Prosecuting Attorney William Payne recommended that the report be made public, saying the board had “no more role” to investigate an elected official.

‘Obligation’

But Doherty maintains the board “has an obligation” to examine the report and how the process of its dissemination was handled.

Public records requests for the document “sat and sat and sat” on the desk of former chief civil deputy Mark Nichols, Doherty said, adding that Nichols was part of an earlier age discrimination lawsuit that cost the county millions to settle.

“A huge employee morale problem occurs because ‘the board’ is not looking at it,” Doherty said of the DCD report.

“I’d say we were misinformed.”

Doherty added: “I just don’t like it sitting there unattended, and the longer it goes, it becomes old news and nothing’s done.”

What action wanted?

At one point in the half-hour discussion, Chapman asked Doherty: “What would you have us do?”

Without getting into specifics, Doherty raised the possibility of additional training, a letter in Roark Miller’s personnel file and further employee interviews conducted by Human Resources Director Rich Sill, County Administrator Jim Jones and other county officials.

“That step was taken by our HR director,” Jones said of the protection of employees.

“We interviewed our employees. We did everything we could do. We spent a hell of a lot of money making sure that we followed the law directly.”

County policy states that only a supervisor can impose discipline such as training, and “the only supervisor that the DCD [director] has is the public,” Jones said.

“And therefore it is up to the public to make that determination.”

Roark Miller has taken steps that were recommended, not ordered, to “make sure that some of these things and these allegations didn’t happen again,” Jones said.

“And to my knowledge, they haven’t,” he said.

Doherty, who is retiring at year’s end, said there are state statutes that give the board the authority to enforce personnel and ethics policies.

Jones said he would reproduce a memo he sent to commissioners last year about the applicable state law and county policy regarding the discipline of an elected official.

Roark Miller, who has long denied any wrongdoing, said “things have improved” in her office.

“I’m a hard-working manager, and I expect hard work from my employees as well,” Roark Miller said in a Thursday interview.

“They rise to the occasion.”

Board debates

Having witnessed several board debates about the DCD report, Roark Miller said she feels “more like a bystander” than a target.

“Commissioner Doherty has served four terms and has served the community well,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him end his term on a good note and in a positive fashion.”

In their lengthy public exchange, Doherty told McEntire that he would continue to raise the issue of the DCD report.

“Unless somebody can point out where we have either not discharged or failed in our duty regarding the DCD matter, my belief is we’re done with that,” McEntire said.

“We have discharged our duty, period.”

The DCD report is available at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-DCDreport.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 07. 2014 5:42PM
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